Thursday, January 2, 2014

Little Grey Horse Rides 5 Miles

I've been struck with a little bit of fortune lately. Mike, my ski patrol coworker who helped to assess Gunner (who by the way is now sporting the new name Tempest), and I have similar days off scheduled in the future. A confident rider who is also local and also willing to ride in all weather = riding buddy for Liz! Which means...Griffin AND Q can be ridden at the same time!

I know I previously stated I'd only ride Griffin in the round pen throughout the month of December and potentially January, too, but these goals were made with the assumption I would be working alone without a riding buddy. The option of a confident, capable rider on an experienced horse to help lead Griffin along (and fix me up if I get banged up from coming off) changes things considerably!

Sunday was a beautiful dreary, rainy, windy, and cold day for our first outing. My buddy Matt was stateside from Germany and was able to come, too.

Once we'd brought the horses inside, Griffin began pitching one of his royal little fits. He'd been kind of punchy while Mike led him in from the field, too, but it escalated to a whole new level in the barn. Kid wanted his grain and he wanted it NOW. He was bouncing up and down where he was tied in a very collected crow hop. He reared some, bounced some more, and grunted as he did it all.

This was not what I wanted to see on a day I planned to ride him outside of a confined area! I held off giving him his grain and took him immediately into the round pen and sent him to work. I asked for a trot and he gave the most collected of canters around me. I worked with what he offered and asked him for a lot of directional changes. He eventually settled into a trot, calming considerably once in this gait. He tried hard within the 5 minute session, so I ended on a good note and then gave him his grain. Night and day difference in his behavior before and after that little session.

Mike and I got all three horses tacked up. I put both Q and Griffin in rope halter-bridle rigs since they're both calmer in them and then three of us, Matt, Mike and I, headed out on Little Bit, Q, and Griffin, respectively.

Mike rode Q in his Australian stock saddle and she was a doll for him. I requested that they lead the bulk of the ride because Q is so experienced. I had a lot of fun watching her go under Mike's direction. It was really nice to be able to watch her way of going on the trail. She's such a good girl.

Grffin was stellar almost the whole ride. He had one borderline angsty moment when we had to cross under the first low branches, but beyond that, he was great! A little suspicious of the color contrast of light bouncing off puddles, but always forward and willing.

The biggest "issue" I encountered with Griffin on trail was when he became a bit spooky over a hunting shack in the woods. It is situated above the trail, which does give it a kind of ominous, looming presence. Griffin was convinced this structure might attack him and became very alert about it, picking up pace as he tried to motor on by while giving it his undivided attention. I talked to him and we got by without a problem.

By the end of the ride, all the horses had taken a turn at leading the ride. Griffin led the tail end of the ride very confidently, and I only had to dismount one time to walk him around an upturned tree that had him bothered. I was really pleased with him for this. He was observant of suspicious things, but he reasoned through everything and kept a nice forward pace. The only thing that earned a spook out of him was a grouse that flushed out of the brush and flew off. Even this earned only the smallest of spooks in comparison to what Q would have done! I'm loving this little grey horse!

While my GPS didn't work for the ride (clouds causing issue, I suspect), I've done this route prior and am fairly confident that we did right around 5 miles. I have no idea how long it took us, but it was probably about an hour. I'd say 75% of the ride was at a walk, 20% at a trot, and 5% at a canter (all cantering was done in short bursts on uphill sections).

I think one of the biggest keys to Griffin's stellar behavior on this ride was the rope halter-bridle. The bosal/side-pull action of this doesn't trigger any sort of outburst from him like the bit does. He understand pressure from this much better than the bit/bridle. I think future trail riding with our chaperone Mike will be done with this set up. I'll continue to work with Griffin in the bridle in confined areas, with hope of extending this work to the trail in the spring.

Overall, I'm very pleased with Griffin's behavior on the trail. Having an experienced horse and rider to chaperone is a huge luxury and a great training opportunity for the little grey horse. Its just what we need to get started on work away from home.

Little man also got to sport the brand new Zilco breastplate on his first outing on our trails!

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